Cinnamon fuelled fun.
Today I was invited to a media event at “Grounds for coffee”, a cafe that has called Alma and Broadway its home for over 20 years.
And as always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The smaller cafe would be gated and closed to host us, this evening. During after hours when they are normally shut down for business past 6pm. It is a small space with wrap around seating. Majority of their square footage is designated for the kitchen, where industrial equipment live and are used to make all their baked goods in house, often daily.
You order at the counter, either squinting up at the chalkboards or peering past the reflection of the glass showcases at thigh height. But this is the kind of place where if they can, they will accommodate any and all of our requests. The staff were most cordial and friendly. They spoke highly of what they helped to prepare and wore their passion on their faces.
Their dim lighting and peaceful ambience makes them a great cozy destination. Suitable for studying, but I think better for socializing at with a friend. Although with the bus stop right outside, they are probably more popular as a quick stop for a grab and go coffee, snack or treat.
They also serve smoothies in fruit and frappuccinos in flavours like strawberry cheesecake and cinnamon. We too were given miniature versions of this to try. The Strawberry cheesecake frappe had a lighter, watered down strawberry flavour, where you only slightly got the salty cheese coming through. An interesting interpretation, and one worthing traveling here to try. Similarly, was the Cinnamon bun frappe. It was very cinnamon forward, I just wished the bun that balanced out the cinnamon and sugar of an actual bun could have been represented in the drink as well, to give it some more depth and balance.
But if you are looking to dine in, they offer comfortable seating with a cushioned bench that runs along the right hand wall, set with throw pillows. And two recliners by the window. The latter was an ideal setting for reading a book as you sip on a latte and nibble on a muffin. We were given miniature versions of the various flavours of muffins to try, because who can really eat a whole muffin during a tasting with so much more to try. Normally their super fruit oatmeal and espresso chocolate banana are available in regular muffin size. Moist muffins that are not sweet, great with coffee or tea.
They also offer savoury snacks and lunch options like calzones, wraps that require two hands to eat, and flatbread like the one above. This is their grilled vegetable one with coloured peppers, mushroom, and zucchini. All the vegetables they use are sourced from “Spud” (a grocery store offering fresh produce that is locally sourced, organically grown, and sustainable for Metro Vancouver), and the dough for the bread base is made in house. The end result is some of the most refreshing bites I have ever had from a pseudo pizza. Garden marinara and a chewy crust.
But even with all that they offer and all that we tried, it is their cinnamon buns that they are well known for, or at least they should be. After all, over hundreds of the third party vendors offering cinnamon buns from grocery stores and cafes in and around BC and Alberta get their supply from “Grounds”. And most of their business is from the wholesale of these buns. And funnily enough, the origins of their cinnamon buns is actually a fluke. The owner actually started off his career as an investment banker, but after realizing he couldn’t see himself going down this road ten to twenty years from now, he redirected his life and poured his energy into baking. Specifically trying to make the best cinnamon buns in the city. If you ever taste them, you too would deem him successful in his endeavour. And the best part, they are significantly less in calories than the other major leading cinnamon bun provider. As well, they taste a whole lot better too. The difference is in the freshness of the bun, the springiness of the dough, the warmth of the cinnamon, and the sugar of the vanilla icing. And once again, this was by luck, the success of ab trial and error process. Where no recipe used, just a desire to succeed. Proof that it is never too late to pursue your dreams, and that with hard work and perseverance, you too can make your goals a reality.
And this is one of the main reasons why I love attending such events, I get to mingle with the staff and owners and learn a thing or two about the company they represent. As much as possible I try not to research the restaurant I am blogging about, I feel it takes away from the authentic experience. As a customer, you pass by a restaurant and if you like it enough by sight, you enter it for a meal. You don’t pull up its history or political position during this process. So why would I when I am recalling it in my posts. However, mingling with staff, and pulling from my conversations with them is a true account of my time representing myself as a foodie and food blogger (media). And therefore one I would like to pass off to you, the reader.
As I mentioned, the cinnamon buns were the highlight of the event, and we were able to get up close and personal with them. To watch a video of this, please click on the link. Here, I cram a jumbo cinnamon bun in my mouth and swallow, I dawn the title of “cinnamon bae”, and we give latte art a try.
The buns themselves we handmade fresh daily using only locally sourced, wholesome ingredients. And it is telling that they list what they are not made with, instead of what they are. For example their cinnamon buns do not contain nuts, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, eggs, bleached flour, raisins, or preservatives. But each is topped with their vanilla bean cream cheese icing.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It is a little far to travel for me, from the one end of Lougheed from Burnaby to the other end in West Broadway. And as a cafe, not necessarily a destination. However if I find myself hankering for the cinnamon and sugar gooeyness of one of the cinnamon buns, and I will given how I have ranked them as the best in the city I have had so far; I can see myself commuting all the way to not deny my cravings. So you shouldn’t either.